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Law School Case Brief

State v. Canola - 73 N.J. 206, 374 A.2d 20 (1977)


The doctrine of felony murder does not extend to a killing, although growing out of the commission of the felony, if directly attributable to the act of one other than the defendant or those associated with him in the unlawful enterprise.


Defendant Leonel Canola and three accomplices were robbing a store when the store owner fatally shot an accomplice, and an accomplice fatally shot the store owner. Defendant Canola was convicted of two felony murders in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:113-1, the convictions of which the intermediate appellate court affirmed. 


Was defendant liable under section 2A:113-1 for felony murder of the accomplice?




Section 2A:113-1 included an "ensues" clause imposing such liability for a killing that ensued from an attempt or commission of certain crimes. The court modified the judgment to strike defendant's conviction for murder of the accomplice. The court concluded that extension of the felony murder rule beyond its classic common-law limitation of acts by the felon and his accomplices, to lethal acts of third persons not in furtherance of the felonious scheme was regressive. The language of section 2A:113-1 did not compel it. Tort concepts of foreseeability and proximate cause had shallow relevance to culpability for murder in the first degree. Gradations of criminal liability should accord with the degree of moral culpability for the actor's conduct.

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